Human Rights Campaign Urges Obama Administration to Rescind “Provider Conscience” Regulations
April 9, 2009
From Cristina's Finch, HRC's senior counsel: In the final days of the Bush Administration, harmful regulations that could limit LGBT patients’ access to health care services were rushed through the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”). Thankfully, the Obama Administration is considering rescinding these regulations. In early March, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a “proposed rule” that would rescind these harmful regulations. The next step in the rule making process is allowing for public comment. By law, HHS must allow the public thirty days to comment on this proposal. The public comment period closes today. The Human Rights Campaign has submitted comments urging the Department of Health and Human Services to rescind these so-called “provider conscience” regulations. Read HRC’s comments here (.DOC) These dangerous regulations purport to interpret federal law to allow a health care provider to refuse to provide any health care service or information for a religious or moral reason. The regulations could impair LGBT patients’ access to care services if interpreted to permit providers to choose patients based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure. Furthermore, the regulations do not require that patients are informed of their treatment options. Under the regulations, a doctor may refuse to administer an HIV test to a patient because he is gay. In fact, the doctor could not only refuse this service, but decline to tell the patient where he would be able to obtain testing. Clearly, this puts the health of the patient, and potentially that of others, at risk. HRC has fought these regulations from the beginning. HRC submitted comments objecting to these regulations when they were proposed, asking the Bush administration to amend them to protect patients while preserving religious liberty. And when the Obama Administration rightly decided to review these regulations, we asked our supporters to send in their own comments urging that the regulations be rescinded. Protecting the free exercise of one’s personal religious beliefs is an important public policy goal. However, no American should face discrimination in the health care system simply because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. We commend the Obama Administration for acting quickly to review these harmful regulations and hope that we will soon be able to report that they have been rescinded in their entirety.